It's lights out in state prisons
to save cash
Charlie Cain / Detroit News
March 31, 2007
• Hard time is getting a little harder inside Michigan
prisons. The Department of Corrections, looking to
reduce its $14.4 million annual electric bill, is pulling the
plug -- literally -- on some of life's luxuries for inmates
and workers at 42 state prisons and eight prison camps.
• While corrections officials can't estimate how much they
hope to save by the new conservation efforts, they say
every penny is important in the effort to balance the
state's out-of-whack budget.
• Their plan:
– Extinguish lights on Christmas trees and other holiday displays
in prison lobbies and offices.
– Remove refrigerated vending machines from lobbies, prisoner
housing units and visitation rooms.
– Eliminate refrigerated water coolers.
• "We need to take the reduction of energy very serious,"
Deputy Director Dennis Straub wrote this week to the
state's prison wardens. "Please implement these
• The department says wardens will be given a brief time
to determine whether they will have any problems
implementing the changes. "I don't have an exact date,
but it will happen soon," said Russ Marlan, spokesman
for the Corrections Department.
• A prisoner advocacy group is criticizing the moves,
saying they amount to added punishment.
– "It seems punitive, and these are just minimal cost saving
measures that actually cause more harm for prisoners who have
already lost a lot of privileges that we in the free world have,"
said Natalie Holbrook, associate at the Ann Arbor-based
American Friends Service Committee's Michigan Criminal
Justice Program. 3
• Meanwhile, a House committee Wednesday unanimously approved and
sent to the full House legislation that would end the sales tax exemption
inmates now receive when purchasing items from prison stores. If
adopted, it would generate $700,000 annually for the state. The
combined actions may appear penny-ante to some. But there are plenty
of reasons corrections officials are trying to squeeze out savings.
– Michigan's prison system is housing an all-time high 51,500 inmates -- 173 percent
more than two decades ago. The department says the state will likely run out of prison
beds by September, a full year before expected.
– It costs $1.9 billion to run the state's prison system, eating up one of every five dollars
in the state's main checkbook. Taxpayers spend $5 million a day on prisons.
– For those reasons, Gov. Jennifer Granholm is proceeding with plans to open the cell
doors this summer and fall to about 5,500 nonviolent, low-risk inmates.
– It's designed to save the state $92 million. But her recommended corrections budget
for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 still calls for a 4 percent spending increase.
• That means the state will continue to pay more to run its prisons than it
does to support its 15 public universities.
• We’ve seen the Are we
costs. at N*?
• What are the
Number of Prisoners
• If so, why?
• If we are at N** and we somewhere
we cut the number of
prisoners, is it
Number of Prisoners